What is the best way to prepare my pitch and/or approach a potential co-founder, increasing the chances that they'll say "YES"?

I have a fantastic, well-developed idea for a new subscription/coaching service. I have the needed expertise in branding, design, user experience, curating the content, social media strategy, marketing, etc. The website is already drafted, and social media is up and running. Now I'm looking for someone who can help with business and financial planning, coordinating legal and accounting, and making sure we start smart. Essentially the left brain to my right. Where do you recommend looking for co-founders (outside word of mouth), and what is the best way to pitch (or to prepare myself and my business idea/setup) in order to get the "YES"?


I have built multiple teams including bringing on cofounders, and being brought on as a cofounder. I also once brought on a cofounder who was responsible for doing the legal/financial/accounting. I wouldn’t do that again (we’re still great friends - just not enough value). I hope my experience can help you out.

Having a cofounder is like having a business spouse. Accordingly, much of the same aspects of relationship building apply, including the pitch and the subsequent “dating.” As you move forward in your relationship, your goal should be removing as much ambiguity as possible, as quickly as possible. A business litigator friend of mine used to say that 99% of breakdowns in partnerships occur because the relationship developed a high tolerance for ambiguity.

1. What you focus on in your first meeting depends on whether or not that person has been a cofounder and/or part of a startup in the past. If they have, they will likely want to start poking holes as quickly as possible, allowing you to be more granular in your discussion. If they haven't, you'll probably stay higher level at first. Both are fine, just be prepared for both scenarios.

2. You have to capture people's imagination with energy and a great story right off the bat. I have made the mistake of ‘just presenting the facts’ in our first meeting, and that generally doesn't go as well. You have to be honest, but you need people to get excited when pitching before they're able and willing to process the details and logic. This is so very important. Don’t overdo it, be humble and point out your gaps, but be excited!

3. The more you can show progress the better. After you capture the imagination, if you can show off the goods that's ideal. This helps them catch the vision, and it also helps them know you’re not full of it and could pull this off =)

4. Take your time. Don't ask them to cofound things on day one. Just like dating, just keep getting to know each other if things continue to progress positively.

5. Help them see where they fit, and define a clear path to on-boarding. By doing this, you’re removing ambiguity and risk, which helps them process the important things. At minimum, this includes 1) discussing ownership, and 2) defining a trial run. 1) Even if you just say, “I’ll take 60% you take 40% and we’ll dilute equally” and put that in writing, that’s a good start. Don’t wait on that. 2) Then, define a specific period of time that you'll test working together. Put a date on the calendar to address whether or not you work well together, and then be honest about it.

Ok…I have lots more to say (clearly) on partnership; but to your other questions:

You can grab templates for much of the more lightweight financial stuff. And/or, partner with a company who does these services vs. bringing on a cofounder who does “the business.” A great cofounder needs to be able to dabble across the business. If they’re a lawyer who can also do UX, marketing, customer service, etc. that’s great! Bring them on. But, that person is rare in my experience. A more CFO/accountant/legal type of person may be more of a post-funding/growth hire than a cofounder. So, I generally prefer to pay a one-time fee to get incorporated, get my books set up, and get my financial modeling done rather than take the risk of losing equity on someone who might not add enough value early on. I work with some partners who do this if you’d like more info.

Lastly, I have only ever found/been found via word of mouth. I have seen some sites who are geared towards helping find a cofounder, but I haven’t used them or had success when trying to find people online. I’m sure some others will have a different opinion, so hopefully you can get some more advice from other Clarity members.

Let me know if you’d like to chat more. I hope that helps!

Answered 9 years ago

There are Pitch Fests that allow you to do just that. Also join local MeetUp groups and ask the smartest and most business savvy people in your network if you can practice on them and get their feedback. Also record your pitch so you can see/hear yourself. Good luck!

Answered 9 years ago

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